Mark Mirko/The Hartford Courant
Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Robinson (Mark Mirko/The Hartford Courant)

HARTFORD, CT — Supreme Court Justice Richard A. Robinson was sworn in Monday as the first African-American Chief Justice in Connecticut’s history.

Robinson was sworn in by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy at a jammed-packed ceremony attended by family, friends, and the legal community.

Robinson was unanimously confirmed by the Senate and the House after Malloy’s earlier nomination of Supreme Court Justice Andrew McDonald to be Chief Justice failed to win enough support in the Senate.

Malloy has known Robinson for close to 35 years. The two worked in Stamford together and Malloy was the one who elevated him to the Supreme Court in 2013. Robinson was first appointed to Superior Court in 2000 by Gov. John G. Rowland and was later elevated to the Appellate Court in 2007 by Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

Malloy said Robinson “has served with distinction.”

“He will be a great leader of our judicial system,” the governor added.

Robinson, after being sworn in by Malloy, joked about the night he received a call from the governor about the position.

“When you called I thought it was an annoying robo call,” Robinson told the Malloy as the audience laughed. “But my wife told me to answer the call. She was right — again,” Robinson said, turning to his wife, Nancy and thanking her “for being my rock.”

Robinson was introduced to the more than 200 people in attendance by Jay Sandak, an attorney and partner in the law firm of Carmody, Torrance, Sandak & Hennessy in New Haven. Sandak was also Robinson’s first boss. He hired Robinson to be an attorney for the city of Stamford when Sandak was that city’s top lawyer in the early 1980s.

“Once in a while you just know that someone will be a perfect hire,” Sandak told the audience. “I just had the feeling that he’d have the makings of a great attorney. Time has proven me correct.”

Sandak said what makes Robinson so good as a judge is that he “views every day as a learning opportunity.”

“He understands the importance of listening first and speaking second,” Sandak said, adding that Robinson also is “quick to digest what is said and equally quick to find illogic in an argument.”

Sandak further described Robinson as “humble yet assertive, confident without an ego, intellectually curious and respected by all.”

Robinson told Sandak that he will be forever grateful for being given the opportunity to work for Stamford, telling Sandak and the audience that trying to land a job as an African-American attorney back in the 1980s wasn’t easy.

“I was unable to land a job 33 years ago,” Robinson said. By the time Sandak took a chance on him, he said his confidence had been “battered.”

Mark Mirko/The Hartford Courant
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy swears in Justice Robinson (Mark Mirko/The Hartford Courant)

Referring to his wife, again, Robinson said she often reminds him that the battle for equal rights for all “is a marathon not a sprint.”

“Last December I turned 60 years old,” Robinson said. “Make no mistake this country is a much better place than it used to be,” adding that his parents would “never have been able to dream” of him being a judge let alone the top judge in the state of Connecticut.

Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Half the judges who were sworn in Monday (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

Before serving as a judge, Robinson was president of the NAACP’s Stamford chapter and served as chair of the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.

Later Monday, Malloy administered the oath to the following Superior Court judges: Nada K. Sizemore of Cromwell; Joseph B. Schwartz of West Hartford; Stuart D. Rosen of Avon; Maureen Price-Boreland of Durham; Peter A. McShane of Madison; Jennifer Macierowski of Windsor; Ann E. Lynch of Granby; Robert A. D’Andrea of Litchfield; Eric D. Coleman of Bloomfield; Karyl L. Carrasquilla of West Hartford; Suzanne E. Caron of Bloomfield; Tejas Bhatt of Windsor; Claudia A. Baio of Rocky Hill; Matthew Edward Auger of Groton, and; Barbara D. Aaron of West Hartford.